A Painful Day

Today my mother would have been 63. I have never liked this day. I should be calling her and celebrating her. Instead I am remembering that she has been gone almost my entire life.  I don’t mean to dwell on that, but it’s hard not to.

My mother died when I was four years old and my only blood-related sister was 10 months old.  My sister has no memory of our mother at all; and that’s both a blessing and a curse for her.  Me, I remember my mom.  It gets harder, as I get older, to recall her face perfectly, or to remember her voice, but I remember just enough.

She wasn’t perfect.  Had she lived, there is no guarantee my life would have been much better, and in many ways it could have been worse.  But what does that matter, to a man who has felt the loss of his mother for his entire life?

It’s easy, at times, to forget that I was not the only person affected by her death.  But my mother was the favored daughter of her father, and he was haunted by her death, only speaking with me about it in the last few years of his own life, finally telling me stories of my mom I’d been asking him for for years–not the funny stories he told me as a child, but the other stories, the stories of mistakes she made, the funny-but-not-funny stories where she messed up.  And he told me of the day he found out she was dead, and how he had felt that day.

And my aunt, her sister, lost her sister and gained responsibility for her children.  She did what she considered the best for us at the time, and I have seen her regret that things for me did not work out so well.  My adopted family was not a good thing–it started well, but went downhill as my adopted mother’s illness progressed–and the mistreatment I went through at her hands made my aunt feel guilty for years.  And now, as she acts as my daughter’s grandmother, I know there must be times when she would love to talk to her sister about me, or my daughter, or other things going on in her life–and she can’t.  That has to hurt, in a way I don’t know, because I never had a close sibling.

My sister may not remember our mom, but she, too, lost a mother, and while her adopted family has been largely positive, I know she must sometimes wonder what might have been, had we been raised together.

And, of course, my daughter, who asks questions about my mom, who understands that she should have had a grandmother that she’ll never meet.  I look at her, and I realize by the time I was her age, I had lost both my beloved grandmother and my mother.  This is, of course, why I take no more chances with my health, why I’m working my way back to fitness, and why I seek a new path of less stress.

All of which is a very roundabout way of saying “I miss my mom.  But I am not alone.” So tonight I will raise a glass to her, and to the memories I have.  And then I’ll move on in my life.

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About Michael Johnston

Father of a fifth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-six years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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